Pulsed Light Acne Treatment vs. Laser Treatment
Acne is the most common skin condition in the world, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Most teens and young adults can conquer their acne by practicing good hygiene and possibly by using over-the-counter ointments, but those with particularly severe cases may seek help from a dermatologist. Dermatologists increasingly are using light energy, in the forms of pulsed light or lasers, to treat acne.
Dermatologists believe that severe acne is caused by four culprits: overactive oil-producing glands in the skin, inflammation, bacteria and clogged pores. Both pulsed light acne treatment and laser treatment kill the bacteria and reduce the inflammation, according to the AAD. This causes the skin's glands to produce less oil, which results in fewer pimples, less pain and better-looking skin.
Dermatologists have used lasers to treat acne for more than 10 years. In laser treatment, patients first may elect to apply a numbing cream to the treatment area. Then, the dermatologist or technician treats a very small section of skin at a time with a small device that applies the laser energy in short bursts. The laser itself feels like a rubber band being snapped against the skin. Treatments take about 20 minutes, and patients generally experience little discomfort afterward, according to the AAD.
Pulsed light acne treatment is newer than laser treatment. In this type of treatment, the light-generating machine disperses a wider range of light wavelengths than a laser, which generally produces only one wavelength of light. As with non-ablative laser treatments, pulsed light acne treatment produces little discomfort; patients generally feel a warmth but not the same "snapping" sensation that is produced by a laser. In some cases, dermatologists may combine pulsed light treatment with a topical medication that makes the light therapy more effective.
Both pulsed light acne treatment and laser treatment for acne have been shown effective in treating acne, but laser treatment may act faster to clear skin. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology compared treatments involving both pulsed light and lasers in 45 patients with moderate to severe acne. They found patients who received laser treatment reduced their lesions by 90 percent after just four treatments, compared with six sessions to 90 percent lesion clearance for those treated with pulsed light.
Both types of treatment will require multiple sessions, although dermatologists say most patients will see results from either treatment after the first or second session. Few health insurers will pay for treatment with either pulsed light or lasers for acne, and the AAD cautions that neither procedure has been proved effective long-term in keeping skin clear. Dermatologists can lay out the potential risks and benefits for anyone considering either pulsed light acne treatment or laser treatment for acne.
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